Down Home Fall Fest

By Carol Ohmart-Behan

Sunday, October 1st, dawned clear, cool, and bright, and blossomed into a perfect autumn day for Sidney Center’s first annual Down Home Fall Fest. Hosted by the Sidney Center Improvement Group, this year’s focus was to celebrate the completed restoration and re-imagining of the Sidney Center Park & Playground Community Space.

Local favorite singer Ellen Harrington opened the event, entertaining the growing number of Fall Fest-goers strolling the beautiful grounds, buying raffle tickets for the huge variety of gift baskets, and queuing up at the food tent for hotdogs, free drinks, tasty soups, and delicious baked goods. Children and their parents made a beeline for the new playground equipment. The Maywood Historical O&W Depot hosted a table for railroad and local history lovers (see link at the end of the article). A colorful and unique addition to the afternoon was the Four County Library System’s Bookmobile with driver Bill Brower inviting all aboard this “library-on-wheels.”

SCIG President Michael Sellitti took the microphone to give an overview of the group’s long effort to bring the Park back from years of near-derelict status to the beautiful place it is today.

He said, “Since the fall of 2017, we have been actively fundraising, organizing, and pursuing this most ambitious project our organization has taken on. Now – almost exactly six years later – I can proudly tell you that our volunteers have facilitated the following improvements to this space:

  • Planted over 20 flowering and shade trees throughout the space.
  • Added a welcome center sign at the entrance to the parking area.
  • Installed a new basketball court including the surface, posts, backboards, and hoops.
  • Excavated a walking trail around the perimeter, including 10 fit-trail activity stations.
  • Added two park benches, a bike rack, and a handicap accessible picnic table all created from recycled single-use plastic made by a non-profit organization in Delaware.
  • Created a 56′ mural of native plants and animal species highlighting the work of three local professional artists, two school districts art students from Sidney and Franklin, Delaware County ARC Studio 190 and of course the community panel outlined by Vicki Davis and painted by attendees of last year’s event.
  • Built a 16′ x 24′ community pavilion – erected by Sidney High School students and completed by Improvement Group volunteers with materials/services donated by Jess F. Howes Building Supply here in Sidney Center.
  • And lastly, the most recent addition, and surely the most exciting for our young residents (and their parents) – the new playground with installation completed by the Town of Sidney Highway Department.”

He went on to recognize the efforts of the SCIG members whose dedication and tireless work made it all possible: Loddie Marsh, Marie Sellitti, Carol Behan, Sara Andros, Vicki Davis, and Ann Birdsall. He also thanked the many volunteers and contributors who have helped along the way, especially those volunteering this Sunday to bring the first Down Home Fall Fest to life.

Certificates of Appreciation were given to Sidney HS teacher Jay Waltz and his students responsible for constructing the pavilion; to Brian Nuebert; to Jamie Roberts, retired Highway Superintendent; to Howard Finch of Tri-Town Development; to Craig and Abby Howes of Jess F. Howes Building Supply, and to Sidney Center residents, Ann and Gordy Birdsall.

Two dedications concluded the ceremony: one for the impressive Bluestone-block bench beside Willowbrook Stream at the Park’s edge, dedicated to Wink Hastings of the National Park Service: Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. “[Wink] worked closely with the Improvement Group…to help us understand the connection between our natural resources and our community. With Wink’s help we hosted several street and stream cleanups, acquired funding for developing a watershed management plan and purchased a stream-monitoring gauge which we gifted to the Sidney H.S. Flood monitoring program. Wink was such a genuine, caring person who always went far beyond his job description and duties to help small communities like ours.”

Michael’s remarks about the second dedication were the most moving of the day: “To the person responsible for suggesting the idea of taking on the restoration of this park and motivating (and convincing) us all to go for it. Josh Newell was …known for his big heart and his big personality. He was always willing to jump right in to help whenever and wherever it was needed. When he moved back to Sidney Center, he immediately became involved with the Improvement Group…He understood the true value of community and wanted his family to be part of it. He saw the park as a way to bring people back together and loved the idea of his kids playing in a park that he did when he was growing up. He would be so proud to see us all gathered here today, sharing this moment, and celebrating his vision for the Sidney Center Park and Playground.”

Taking the stage next was popular area musician, Randy Hulse, who invited everyone to enjoy the Fall Fest offerings, including field games, face-painting, pumpkin decorating, a photo booth, and the well-received pie-eating contest which drew three young participants. Regretfully their names were not available for this article, but the lucky blueberry-faced winner won gift certificates to three local pizzerias!

Many remarks were overheard about the Down Home Fall Fest being the perfect way to see out the last of summer and welcome fall. SCIG hopes those unable to attend will make time soon to visit our park and enjoy its beauty and all its options. Save the date: the Down Home Fall Fest will return for a second time next October 2024.

As a longtime member of this special community group, I feel it’s important to conclude with the appeal Michael made in his Welcome: “In order for the Improvement Group to continue offering free events like Holidays in the Hamlet, Free Tree Day, the Crock Pot Cook-off, Lucky Day Auction, and now the Down Home Fall Fest… In order for us to continue working on issues like clean water, speeding through the hamlet, and derelict homes… In order for us to continue enhancing the curb appeal of the community with new entrance signs, seasonal decorations, and a new park/playground like the one you’re standing in now – we need help. We need engagement. We need people. We need more energy. We need you!”

To act on this and to keep up with what the Improvement Group is doing, visit our Facebook page:

Carol Behan is a SCIG board member.

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